Four individuals who have made significant contributions to agriculture and Farm Bureau were honored by the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation Dec. 9 in Columbus at the 103rd annual meeting of Ohio Farm Bureau.
The 2021 Distinguished Service Award recipients are Dr. Tony Forshey of Licking County, Belinda Jones of Franklin County, Randy Leis of Montgomery County and Keith Stimpert of Franklin County. Each honoree was recognized for lifetime achievements that benefited Ohio’s farming community.
Dr. Tony Forshey
Throughout his 27 years as a practicing veterinarian, Tony Forshey made invaluable contributions to the betterment of the swine industry. He focused on herd health and disease prevention, rather than simply treating sick animals. He was so well respected in his profession that he was named Ohio’s state veterinarian and chief of the Division of Animal Health for the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Through his leadership in that position, Forshey, in partnership with Ohio Farm Bureau, helped create the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board and was a charter member.
Belinda Jones was born and raised in southern Ohio, and she never forgot her rural roots as she forged a career at the Statehouse in Columbus. She earned her undergraduate degree in public relations at Capital University then went to work at the Statehouse for Speaker Vern Riffe while finishing her law degree at Capital Law School at night, all while raising a family.
For more than 30 years at the Statehouse, Jones was known as a hardworking and smart advocate. She put roots down in agricultural law while serving as corporate counsel for The Scotts Company and finally as legislative counsel for the Capitol Consulting Group. Jones passed away in February at age 56.
With two sesquicentennial farms in one family, Randy Leis’ passion for carrying on the legacy of his family’s farm is matched only by his enthusiasm for volunteering in his community, focusing on his farm, church and Farm Bureau. His pathway in agriculture started in 4-H and then took him to Ohio State University, where he earned two degrees. Leis credits his initial Farm Bureau involvement to former Executive Vice President Bill Swank. He said, “Bill Swank was passionate about Farm Bureau, and his passion was contagious.” Leis first became involved in Farm Bureau in 1975 when he served at the county level. His journey culminated with service on the state board of trustees from 1993 to 2011 representing members from Butler, Hamilton, Montgomery and Preble counties.
Keith Stimpert began his professional journey as a Farm Bureau organization director in southwest Ohio in 1978 and in 1981 joined the organization’s communications staff. In 1987, while also serving as director of commodity activities for Farm Bureau, Stimpert became executive director of the Ohio Soybean Association and served in that position for nine years. During this time, he helped found the Ohio Soybean Council and served as its first executive director. He worked with producer boards in establishing programs to build soybean profitability. From there, Stimpert was named vice president of government affairs at Ohio Farm Bureau where he was responsible for coordinating the organization’s overall legislative agenda, a position he held for 16 years. In 2011, he was named senior vice president for the Organization Department and was responsible for leadership development, IT, member benefits membership and field operations. Over his four decade career, Stimpert has built strong relationships across Ohio agriculture and beyond.
In addition, the Ohio Farm Bureau presented Innovation and Collaboration Awards to highlight county Farm Bureaus for their implementation of new and innovative programs within their communities and the teamwork required to make those efforts successful. Counties that received Innovation Awards earned $1,500, and winners of the Collaboration Awards were given $4,000 to be divided evenly among each of the counties involved. Award winners also were honored at the 2021 Ohio Farm Bureau Annual Meeting.
“Our counties are best at serving members by focusing on valued programing, networking, philanthropy and grassroots advocacy,” said Paul Lyons, vice president of membership with Ohio Farm Bureau. “These Innovation and Collaboration Awards are an opportunity for the Ohio Farm Bureau to recognize counties for the value they bring to their members through these excellent county programs.”
2021 Innovation Award winners:
Belmont: Sponsored Annual Meeting
Belmont County Farm Bureau wanted a way to provide a free, high quality annual meeting to all of its members. The board of trustees decided to ask for sponsorship from business partners and group membership participants within the county to see if the funding could be secured for this event. Three levels of sponsorships were set, with higher sponsor levels receiving more exposure at the meeting; each level of sponsorship received two complimentary tickets. The fundraising goal was exceeded and members enjoyed a fully sponsored annual meeting at no cost for them to attend.
Crawford: Farm Safety
After several close call incidents involving farm equipment in the county, Crawford County Farm Bureau recognized that something was needed to help protect farmers and others traveling through areas with farm traffic. The county Farm Bureau along with a local Nationwide agency partnered to produce farm safety yard signs. The signs said ‘Share the road with farmers and farm equipment’ and displayed the county Farm Bureau logo and the agency partner logo. Volunteers distributed 50 yard signs in the spring to help create awareness of farm equipment on the road and had a goal to distribute 50 more before fall harvest.
Hocking: Youth Cooperative Leadership Experience
Youth Cooperative Leadership Experience is an online program that inspires students to discover and explore careers in agricultural cooperatives. The project is a partnership between
Hocking County Farm Bureau and the Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences Center for Cooperatives. The program was made possible through a Youth Pathways Grant from Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation. The online curriculum includes co-op tours and talks with Heritage Cooperative, Nationwide and Casa Nueva, along with video interviews featuring farmer leaders. A full curriculum of cooperative education is available to educators to put to use on student-run farms. Learners can use their new knowledge to start their own co-op or worker-owned business.
Pickaway: Pickaway County Buyers Club
Youth fair exhibitors put time, money and effort into raising and working with their market animals. They learn animal husbandry, production, marketing and invaluable leadership skills. To reward those efforts, the Pickaway County Buyers Club, a group of local businesses, organizations and individuals, pooled funds to purchase livestock projects at the Pickaway County Junior Fair Sale. Founded by Pickaway County Farm Bureau trustees, the club continues to grow in number of participants and dollars raised, resulting in an increased positive impact on local youth and the community. In 2021, 71 Pickaway County Buyers Club donors raised a total of $36,834 and purchased 65 livestock projects plus 18 add-ons at the Junior Fair Sale.
Pike: Let’s Get Popping
To keep Farm Bureau volunteers engaged throughout a time when public activities and events were limited, Pike County Farm Bureau got creative. Farm Bureau decided to work with local members and partnered to create a Pike County Farm Bureau kettle corn flavor, “Harvest Mix.” The board of trustees came up with the name and the unique flavors along with the colors so it would represent harvest time: green to represent the crops, yellow for the sun and brown to signify the soil. The special mix includes caramel, vanilla and classic kettle corn flavors. Poppin’ Jessie, a local Farm Bureau member, pops the kettle corn grown by fellow members, Corcoran Farms. Rural King, who is a group member, sells the kettle corn in five different locations throughout southern Ohio.
Union: Farm Bureau Day at Rural King
With many changing aspects in Farm Bureau today, Union County Farm Bureau worked to create a way to garner attention within the community, connect potential Farm Bureau members with the organization and increase engagement through a better consumer outreach plan. With those goals in mind, the county organization held the 1st Annual Farm Bureau Day at Rural King, where volunteers served free water and cookies and had hourly drawings for a gift card giveaway. Throughout the day, shoppers of Rural King were introduced to Farm Bureau, learned about the value of being a member and were asked to join. This event also allowed Farm Bureau volunteers to give updates to current members about what Farm Bureau is doing at the county, state and national levels.
Wayne: Land Use Planning for the Future of Our County
Wayne County Farm Bureau’s involvement in the countywide Land Use Actions for the Future of Our County project stemmed from two local policies Farm Bureau generated that addressed land use. The county government updated its comprehensive plan in 2019 following a period of feedback from the community, including a listening session organized by the county Farm Bureau. A workshop was put together in 2020 to help catalyze action of the new plan around balanced land use, including agriculture’s concerns. The workshop took place over four brown bag seminars which drew 50 to 80 participants to each session. The attendees included a diverse group of Farm Bureau members and community stakeholders. Overall, the feedback received suggests there is interest in continuing these discussions to engage stakeholders and develop shared solutions to the county’s biggest land use challenges.
Wood: Hop Around Wood County
Wood County’s beer and wine tasting event was created to increase Farm Bureau awareness and encourage networking and opportunities for potential new members in the future. The event put a spotlight on several local crafters of beer and wine and allowed them to explain the brewing/wine making process, share about the local ingredients that go into their products and allow attendees to make connections for future support of those businesses. More than $3,900 was raised from the event to fund the county Farm Bureau 2022 scholarship fund.
2021 Collaboration Award winners:
Allen, Paulding, Putnam and Van Wert Counties: Grain Bin Safety
In 2019, a grain bin accident impacted several lives in a nearby county. After hearing the details of the accident and how it could have been prevented, Allen, Paulding, Putnam and Van Wert County Farm Bureaus joined together to create a safety and rescue program geared toward first responders, cooperative employees and farmers. The program, drawing over 100 people, kicked off with a session that covered how grain entrapments start, how they can be prevented and went into detail of how first responders should handle these types of calls. After the session, the first responders and cooperative employees got a chance to practice how to rescue entrapped victims and how to correctly cut a grain bin. This program was able to meet farmer participants’ workers’ compensation safety training hours requirement as well as continuing education hours for the first responders.
Ashland, Medina and Wayne Counties: Ag Toy Drive
Young farmer groups in neighboring Ashland, Medina and Wayne counties came together in a rallying response to a community need. This project supported area children in a unique way while still featuring agriculture. The need by the local Toys for Tots was estimated to increase due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and toy donations were unknown as Toys for Tots’ staunch supporters in the past were struggling with labor shortages, shutdowns and supply chain challenges. The Ag Toy Drive program was completed in December 2020 and resulted in a total of $8,048 in agricultural-themed toys being donated to charities across a multicounty area. Sixty-five Farm Bureau volunteers executed the planning, fundraising, pre and post event media campaigns, event execution and toy shopping and delivery. This event was able to “give the gift of agriculture” to 402 families through providing them with an agricultural-themed gift for Christmas.
Jackson-Vinton, Pike and Scioto Counties: Virtual Agriculture Day
Prior to the pandemic, the counties conducted Agriculture Awareness Days, a field trip designed for third, fourth and fifth graders. Due to COVID-19, field trips were not permitted by schools, so the county boards of Jackson-Vinton, Pike and Scioto County Farm Bureaus got together and planned a Virtual Agriculture Day, creating an interactive online event. OSU Extension, Soil and Water Districts, Natural Resource Conservation Service, 4-H members and FFA students were involved, as well as local farmers and leaders representing all aspects of agriculture in each of the counties. Every participant recorded a 2-5 minute video on their own farms showing, firsthand, what they do every day. Over 60 videos were posted to YouTube and shared with teachers and their students to enjoy in the classroom or, for many, in the cafeteria and/or gym as a group at the end of a school fun day.
The Young Ag Professionals awards were presented as well. Joe Everett of Sidney is the winner of Ohio Farm Bureau’s Excellence in Agriculture Award for 2021. Kyle Stockton of Elida is the winner of Ohio Farm Bureau’s Outstanding Young Farmer Award for 2021.
As the 2021 winners, Everett and Stockton receive expense-paid trips to the Winter Leadership Experience and Ohio Farm Bureau Annual Meeting, representing Ohio at the American Farm Bureau Annual Convention in Atlanta in January, a media package and a $3,000 prize of choice. Prizes are courtesy of Farm Credit Mid-America, Nationwide and Ohio Farm Bureau.
Stacie Anderson of Wood County is the winner of Ohio Farm Bureau’s Young Agricultural Professionals 2021 Discussion Meet competition. As the winner, she receives a $1,000 cash award from Nationwide, an expense-paid trip to the Ohio Farm Bureau Annual Meeting in December 2021 and an expense-paid trip to represent Ohio at the national competition during the American Farm Bureau Annual Convention in Atlanta in January 2022.